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JASTROW'S • CIVILIZATION OF BABYLONIA 
AND ASSYRIA* 

The Civilization of Babylonia and Assyria. Its Remains, Language, 
History, Religion, Commerce, Law, Art, and Literature. By 
Morris Jastrow, Jr., Ph.D., LL.D., Professor in the 
University of Pennsylvania. Philadelphia and London: 
J. B. Lippincott Company, 1915. pp. xxv+515, with Map 
and 164 Illustrations. 

A large volume is required to cover the whole ground of 
Assyriology which has ramifications in many directions. It is not 
a simple task to assimilate the results attained by specialists in 
all the branches of this science and to present them in a form 
attractive to the general reader, for whom the present volume 
is primarily intended. This difficulty explains why 'this is the 
first time that the attempt has been made on a somewhat large 
scale to cover the entire subject of Babylonian- Assyrian civilization 
for the English reader'. And, with all due regard to the great 
merits of other scholars, we may say that there are not many 
so capable for the execution of such a difficult enterprise as the 
author of this book. It is indeed a striking and delightful work, 
popular in the best sense of the term, and it contains the most 
recent results of research in Assyriological studies. Its perusal 
will therefore be useful not only for the general reader interested 
in the civilization of a region where tradition places the cradle 
of the human race, but also for the student of the Bible, as it 
calls his attention to most recent opinions on a variety of subjects 
which have an important bearing upon many biblical problems. 
The liberal use which has been made of illustrations greatly 
contributes to the clearer setting forth of the results. 

The book consists of eight chapters, the first of which 
contains the story of the excavations at Babylonian and Assyrian 

439 



44° THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW 

sites. It surveys the work done by explorers and excavators 
in the past hundred years intervening between the first efforts 
inaugurated, on a very small scale, by Claudius James Rich and 
the present date. The story is told without troubling the reader 
with too any details, but with due regard to the merits of each 
one of the pioneers to whom the world owes a lasting debt. 
Those who desire fuller information on this subject are recom- 
mended to the new edition of Rogers's History of Babylonia and 
Assyria (19 15), which contains a charmingly written and detailed 
account pf these matters. The second chapter gives the story 
of the decipherment of the cuneiform scripts. It illustrates 
lucidly the course of the decipherment of the cuneiform inscrip- 
tions with the aid of reproduction and selection of cuneiform 
signs and combination of such signs into words, in order to make 
clear to the reader how it was possible to find a key to the reading 
of the puzzling combinations of wedges which became the medium 
of written expression in the Euphrates valley. 

The third chapter contains a general outline of the History 
of Babylonia and Assyria, from the oldest times of which we 
possess records down to the Persian period. Of special interest 
is the part which deals with the early Babylonian history, since 
it is largely based on contemporary records which have been 
published in recent years. As far as the details are concerned, 
there are several points to which we take exception. The author 
assigns to the overthrow of Lugal-zaggisi the approximate date 
of 2675 b.c.e., and accordingly dates the dynasty of Sargon of 
Akkad, which lasted 197 years, about 2675-2475. This date 
is highly improbable, if we accept with the author, as is now 
generally done, the date 2123-2081 b.c.e. for the reign of 
Hammurabi, based on Kugler's calculations. We see that the 
Dynastic Lists of Nippur assign to the dynasty of Sargon 197 
years, to the rule of Gutium 125, to the dynasty of Ur, founded 
by Ur-engur, 117, and to the dynasty of Isin 225. The rule of 
Gutium was preceded by a dynasty of Uruk, which overthrew 
the Sargon dynasty. The downfall of the dynasty of Isin occurred 
in all probability in the year of Hammurabi's accession, if not 



JASTROW'S 'BABYLONIAN CIVILIZATION' — HOSCHANDER 441 

three years earlier. Now we have not the least reason to doubt 
the accuracy of these dates, or to assume that the reigns of these 
dynasties overlapped one another. We further learn from another 
source that the rule of Gutium was terminated by Utu-hegal, 
the founder of a new dynasty of Uruk. If we allow for the latter 
a period of about thirty years, as indeed the author does, we find 
that about 700 years, if not more, must have intervened between 
the accession of Sargon and that of Hammurabi, and we ought 
to assign to the former 2800 at least, as an approximate date. 
Furthermore, while the author fixes the overthrow of Sargon's 
dynasty in the year 2475 (P- 1 37)> he places Gudea approximately 
at 2450 (p. 138). He assigns the same date to the Ur dynasty 
(p. 140). But it is hardly possible that the reign of Gudea and 
the establishment of the Ur dynasty, which are quite correctly 
dated by the author, should have been separated from Sargon's 
dynasty by the short interval of twenty-five years. Moreover, on 
these points the author seems to contradict himself. He places 
the invasion of the Guti after Lagash had reached its climax under 
Gudea, and observes : ' For a period of about fifty years a Guti 
dynasty actually occupied the throne, presumably choosing Uruk 
as the seat of residence' (p. 138); 'Utu-hegal . . , succeeds in 
driving the Guti out of the country' (p. 139); '30 years after 
Utu-hegal's accession Ur-engur succeeds in making Ur once more 
the capital of a united Sumerian kingdom' (p. 140). Thus 
a period of more than eighty years must have intervened between 
Gudea and the Ur dynasty. However, as far as I can see, the 
rule of Gutium must be placed about 2600-2475, tne reign of 
Utu-hegal about 2475-2450. Gudea was in all probability 
a contemporary of the latter and of Ur-engur, the founder of the 
Ur dynasty. I was also surprised to find that, notwithstanding 
that the date of 2675 was assigned by the author to the overthrow 
of Lugal-zaggisi, he gives to Urukagina, who was in turn over- 
thrown by the latter, the approximate date of 2800 b.c.e. (p. 130). 
This date does not seem to be a misprint, as from Eannatum, 
whom the author dates about 2920, to Urukagina could not have 
been more than 120 years. And even this figure is most likely 
VOL. VII. G g 



442 THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW 

too high, as Urukagina was the immediate successor of Lugal-anda, 
who succeeded his father Enlitarsi. The latter had been chief 
priest of Ningirsu under the reign of Entemena, the nephew of 
Eannatum. 

The author being generally recognized as an authority on all 
matters pertaining to the Babylonian and Assyrian religion, and 
thus quite at home in this special department, it is natural that 
the chief value of the book should lie in the fourth and fifth 
chapters, which deal with the Babylonian and Assyrian gods, 
cults and temples. The sixth chapter, entitled Commerce and 
Law, discusses chiefly the Code of Hammurabi; the seventh 
describes Babylonian-Assyrian art; and the last chapter gives 
specimens of Babylonian-Assyrian literature, such as the stories 
of Creation and Deluge, prayers, penitential psalms, &c. 

The author has certainly, as a whole, carried through his task 
admirably. But there is still one important point that ought not 
to be left undiscussed. The author holds with Eduard Meyer 
that the Semites were the first to arrive in the Euphrates valley, 
and makes this view the starting-point for his treatment of 
Babylonian-Assyrian history and religion. Now this view is based 
upon the fact that the Sumerians in the earlier historical periods 
frequently represented their gods with abundant hair and long 
beards, while the Sumerians themselves shaved their own heads 
and faces. It has been found also that the garments in which 
the gods are represented do not resemble those worn by con- 
temporary Sumerians. Seeing that man forms his god in his own 
image, it is surprising that the gods of the Sumerians should not 
have been of their own type. Owing to this phenomenon, 
Eduard Meyer maintains that the Semites and their gods had 
been in the country before the Sumerians came upon the scene. 
He regards the Semites at this period as settled throughout the 
country, and being a primitive and uncultured people, possessed 
only of sufficient knowledge to embody the figures of their gods 
in rude images of stone and clay. The Sumerians who invaded 
the country settled in the south and drove the Semites northward, 
and took over from them the ancient centres of their cult. 



JASTROW'S 'BABYLONIAN CIVILIZATION' — HOSCHANDER 443 

However, were the Semites the only people in the universe 
whom nature endowed with hair and beard ? We should think 
that primitive man everywhere let his hair and beard grow freely. 
Hence is it not more reasonable to assume that the Sumerians 
retained the primitive cult-images dating from a period when the 
Sumerians themselves had worn long hair and long beards? 
The garments of these Sumerian gods have little in common 
with the Semitic plaid. If the Semites had been the earliest 
settlers of Babylonia, we should find abundant traces of Semitic 
influence in the earliest Sumerian inscriptions. But, as a matter 
of fact, no Semiticism occurs in any text from the period of 
Ur-Nina down to that of Lugal-zaggisi, who left a Semitic inscrip- 
tion, with the exception of a single doubtful word, dam-}ia-ra, 
on the stele of Entemena, and that belongs to a time when the 
Semites had already been in the country for a long period. If 
the Sumerians had retained the cult-images of the Semites, owing 
to their sacred character, would they not have retained, in a few 
instances at least, their former names as well ? 

Now it must be admitted that the author does not fully 
concur with the view of Eduard Meyer. The latter is always 
reluctant to give credit to Semites for their contributions to the 
progress of the human race, if historical facts do not absolutely 
demand it and there is some way of evading such a judgement. 
The author assumes that the Sumerians had brought a certain 
degree of culture with them, which through contact with the 
Akkadian population was further stimulated and modified until 
it acquired the traits distinguishing it at the period we obtain our 
earliest glimpse of political, social, and religious conditions in 
the Euphrates valley (p. 121). But then how can the author 
explain the absence of traces of Semitic influence in the earliest 
Sumerian texts? Moreover, for the hybrid character of this 
civilization it is quite irrelevant whether the Sumerians or the 
Semites were the first inhabitants of Babylonia. It is a pre- 
historic problem, and Eduard Meyer's view does not furnish any 
explanation for the progress of religious thought of the Babylonians 
in historical times, since 'the mixture of the two factors is so 



444 THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW 

complete that it is no longer possible to specify the features 
contributed by each' (p. 187). Nor does this view shed light 
upon the political conditions in historical times. 

We may call attention to the fact that Hebrew tradition 
apparently indicates that the first inhabitants of the Euphrates 
valley were non-Semites, and thus confirms the current opinion 
concerning this problem. We are told: 'And the whole land 
was of one language and one speech. And it came to pass, 
as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the 
land of Shinar, and they dwelt there' (Gen. 11. r, 2). The 
tradition evidently refers to that remote period when there was 
only one language in Babylonia, before it became a bilingual 
country. And it is said that the first inhabitants arrived there 
from the east. If they had been Semites, they would certainly 
have come from the west, the Arabian desert, the original home 
of the Semitic nomads, whence all the Semitic waves came to 
Babylonia in historical times. But there is hardly any room 
for doubt that the Sumerians actually came from the east. In 
accordance with this Hebrew tradition, the Table of Nations 
represents the aborigines of Babylonia as non-Semites (Gen. 
10. 8-1 1). 

Jacob Hoschander. 
Drcpsie College.